The State of Amateur Snooker in the English Midlands
Regular Billiards Boutique newsletter and blog reader, Mark Tebbutt, a qualified snooker referee, writes his first submission for us about the state of English amateur snooker in his local area of the Midlands.
The State of the English Amateur Game in the Midlands.
As this is my first article I figured that I would write about something that I’m passionate about.
As a qualified snooker referee I do events for the EASB in the Midlands region. I’m from Kettering, Northamptonshire – Yep, the same town as Kyren Wilson for all you snooker fact fans!
Compared to the North and South of England, the Midlands don’t ever get as many entrants into events as they should. This is for all events – whether it’s the Regional Junior Tour or the ‘Under’ championships.
When I started playing snooker at the age of 13 (I’m now 32) there was a local league, a few local coaches and tournaments. Roll on nearly 20 years and there is no more league, only one coach locally to where I live (Gavin York – very talented) and not many tournaments. As my game improved I wanted better competition other than my friends so I entered Pro-am events at the Windmill Club in Rushden.
Peter Ebdon and Rory McLeod used to play there – another fact for you all.
These tournaments used to get players from across the country entering and there was always a really big turnout. I remember that at one of these tournaments there was a little lad playing, he was probably about 11 or 12 years old. He was potting everything and was making centuries for fun.
I was walking to school the next day and I told my friend that this kid was going to be World Champion and World Number 1. Big words but this little lad was Judd Trump. Not been World Champion but he has been World Number 1 before so I’m taking that as a win.
I never knew about the EASB but if I had I would have entered some events just to try and improve my game if nothing else. Maybe the junior players just aren’t aware but I find that hard to believe with the internet and social media being about.
I could tell you more stories about my time playing but I wouldn’t want to bore you all too much. Maybe another time if you’re interested?
Lack of Amateurs and Juniors in The Midlands
So, back to what this article was originally about. As I said, the Midlands don’t get enough junior and amateurs playing in events and from what I can gather there are various reasons for this. In my opinion the following are why there are hardly any players entering:
- Advertising; there is hardly any for these events and that is just not good enough. I appreciate that the EASB is run by volunteers so money can be an issue but surely the saying ‘you have to spend money to make money’ comes into play. The EASB aren’t fully responsible for this – the clubs are too. At the events I have refereed at, Not a single one of them have posters or flyers up saying that they are an EASB affiliated club. If I owned my own club then I would let every man, woman and child know this.
- Not enough prize money; this could be a major factor. If players are having to travel, let’s say for arguments sake, a 120 mile all-round trip then fuel costs could be around £30. On top of that you have the money you have to pay to enter, let’s go with £20 (it does vary at different events). So that’s £50 before a ball has been struck. Then, depending on where you finish in the event you could end up not winning any prize money. Obviously the players are aware of this though. However, the less players that enter then the prize money for the winner, runner-up and the semi-finalists go down. So you could end up winning the event and actually lose money. I’m not too sure what can be done about this – I suppose the more players that enter the better it will be for everyone involved.
- The venue; a couple of things on this one. All of the Midlands events are held in the West Midlands. Whilst most players are from around or near this area there are a few that travel from the East Midlands to enter. This could be putting some players off due to not being able to get to the venue. I would like to see at least one event next season held in the East. Also, I feel that the clubs don’t take the snooker side of things seriously. The tables aren’t maintained to a good enough standard and they seem to care more about making money from selling food and drinks whilst showing a variety of sports. Clubs that are dedicated to just snooker would be a much better choice for events to be held at but unfortunately these clubs are few and far between.
The EPSB have introduced the ‘147 Club’ to get clubs affiliated with the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards. I won’t go into all the details in this article but it would be great if clubs could get in on it. Check out www.epsb.co.uk/the-147-club/ for more info if you’re interested.
Snooker Still in Demand
There are more tournaments now in the pro game than ever before so there is clearly a demand for snooker still. I think club owners need to see that there is still money to be made from the snooker side of things. If they would only invest in sorting out coaching for players and doing a few tournaments then they would get more people in their respective clubs.
The North and South seem to do doing just fine so the Midlands really need to look at how it can improve. Players from the Midlands seem to be entering events in the North and South as there are more entrants. Maybe the clubs are better as well but don’t quote me on that.
When you see 16 and 17 year olds from China turning pro it makes you wonder why there aren’t English players doing the same. Only one amateur from England has turned pro recently and that’s Billy Joe Castle. He is holding his own on the main tour so I’m hoping he can continue to improve. If more English talent doesn’t start coming up through the ranks then the Asians will soon be dominating. Unfortunately we can’t rely on Ronnie O’Sullivan forever. Maybe we should be taking note of how the Chinese go about their snooker business and incorporate that into our way of thinking.
I’m not going to lie – I’m worried about how the game is going in England (again, the Midlands specifically). Clubs (that aren’t just concentrating on snooker) just simply don’t seem interested in nurturing the younger players and some clubs still don’t let anyone under 16 play! With short-sighted people like this then where will the English game be in 10 or 20 years’ time? I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong and that the game will once again flourish in England.
I’ve tried to get more players entering the Midlands events by posting on Reddit and thesnookerforum.co.uk but not had any luck. Hopefully, once this season is over, I can try and drum up more interest somehow.
There is Still Talent Out There
I feel I’ve been a bit ‘doom and gloom’ so I’ll finish on a better note. There are some extremely talented amateur players in England but I will only write about a few that I’ve encountered.
The first player that comes straight into my head is Peter Devlin – the current Under 21 Champion. Whilst he isn’t from the Midlands I can’t not put him on here. Hopefully Peter will turn pro and show the world what he is capable of. He has represent England before with the ‘B’ team and they ended up winning. I’ve spoken to Peter a few times and his main problem is finding a sponsor. So, if any of you are interested in sponsoring this extremely talented and nice young man then I would strongly recommend it.
Ryan Roberts – as he is from Northampton I have refereed Ryan about 5 times now. Very, very confident in his abilities and would be a great asset to the game if he keeps moving forward. A brilliant all-round player and great to watch around the table. His safety play is exceptional when he is in a long, drawn-out frame. He looks all set to be on the Premier Junior Tour next season.
Adam Goff – another player from Northampton so I’ve refereed him as much as Ryan. Once again he is a great all-rounder and when he is cueing well he will tear apart who he is playing. Breathtaking to watch when he is amongst the balls. He should also be on the Premier Junior Tour next season.
I was only going to write about the above three players but I’m going to mention a lad called Bradley Harrison who is from Nuneaton. One of the finest cue actions I’ve seen! I think if he can just try to relax a bit more and not put so much pressure on himself then he could do very well. Just hope he never changes his cue action!
So in summary, there are still some talented youngsters about and I hope they turn pro and give the English game a much needed face-lift.
It is, however, time for something to be done but unfortunately I’m just one man and I’m not exactly in a position of power to get anything drastic changed.
As I am writing this (5th January 2018) the EASB have just announced that it has become the latest National Federation to become a full member of the World Snooker Federation (WSF). This is great news as this should give a boost to the amateur game across the whole of England.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed giving this a read and I didn’t start sending you to sleep!
If there is something else you would like me to give my views on then please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can even add me as a friend on Facebook (It’s a picture of me in my referee get-up at a table – yes I look about 14!).
That’s all from me today and I’ll see you soon.
If you have a passion or opinion related to pool, snooker or billiards and would like to write about it then please get in touch with Pete Williams on the usual email address.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of Mark Tebbutt and publication does not mean it is also the opinion of Billiards Boutique and its staff.